Norovirus

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. You can get sick with norovirus by eating or drinking food or liquids that are contaminated with the virus, having contact with other people or surfaces carrying the virus or swimming in contaminated water. You can help protect yourself and others from norovirus by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and following other prevention tips.

Symptoms usually start 12-48 hours after being exposed to the virus. The most common symptoms of norovirus are:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Most people with norovirus get better within 1-3 days. There is no specific medicine to treat norovirus but if you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.

Norovirus infections can happen at any time of year, but they occur much more often during the winter months. These outbreaks are common in closed environments and group settings. In warmer months, outbreaks often occur at recreational water locations.

If you suspect an outbreak at your school, child care or long-term care facility, notify the Health Department 24/7 by calling 802-863-7240.

 
Prevention

Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers, before making and eating food, and before giving yourself or someone else medicine. Learn more about the importance of handwashing.

The best way to wash your hands:

  • Wet hands with water and cover all parts of hands with soap.
  • Rub lathered hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Thoroughly rinse with water.
  • Dry hands with a clean towel.

Norovirus can be found in your vomit or poop even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your poop for two weeks or more after you feel better. It’s important to continue washing your hands often during this time.

Handle and make food safely by washing fruits and vegetables before eating them and cooking shellfish thoroughly. Routinely clean and sanitize kitchen utensils, counters, and surfaces before preparing food.

If you’re sick, stay home and do not make food or care for others for at least two days after symptoms stop. This applies especially to workers in restaurants, schools, day care centers, long-term care facilities, and other places where they may expose people to the virus.

Clean and disinfect areas immediately after someone vomits or has diarrhea.

 
Cleaning and Disinfecting

After someone vomits or has diarrhea, immediately follow these steps to clean and disinfect the area:

  1. Put on rubber or disposable gloves.
  2. Wipe the entire area with paper towels.
  3. Disinfect the area using a diluted chlorine bleach solution (5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). See a list of EPA-approved disinfectants.  
  4. Leave the bleach disinfectant on the affected area for at least five minutes.
  5. Clean the entire area again with soap and hot water.
  6. Finish by cleaning soiled laundry, taking out the trash, and washing your hands.

Watch this video on how to clean up after someone with norovirus vomits or has diarrhea.

Wash Laundry Thoroughly

Wearing rubber gloves, immediately wash soiled items carefully. Wash the items with detergent and hot water at the maximum available cycle length, then machine dry at the highest heat setting. Wash your hands after.

 
Outbreak Management

If you suspect an outbreak at your facility, notify the Health Department 24/7 by calling 802-863-7240. Refer to the quick reference guides for long-term care facilities, schools, and child cares.

An outbreak of norovirus-like illness is when two or more people with a common exposure (like being in a school or child care) are sick within 1-2 days of each other with the abrupt onset of vomiting and diarrhea. An outbreak is over when it’s been five days since the last person recovered and no additional people are sick.

Outbreak Management Resources

 
Stool Specimen Collection and Testing

In the event of an outbreak at a facility, the Health Department Laboratory will test the stool of at least two different people to identify the source of the illness.

Use this handout to help guide you through the process.

  1. Get a stool specimen collection kit. If you don’t have kits on hand, call the Health Department at 802-863-7240 to coordinate getting kits.
  2. Follow the instructions for collecting and packaging a stool specimen. Watch this video for more tips on how to collect a stool sample.
  3. Ensure a test request form is filled out and included with each specimen.
  4. Coordinate with the Health Department to deliver specimens to the Health Department Lab.

For specimen transport times to the Lab, view the drive time map. 

 
Norovirus Sentinel Sites

Be prepared – sign up to have norovirus specimen collection kits on hand. Norovirus sentinels volunteer to have stool collection kits on-site, so that specimens can be collected as soon as an outbreak is suspected. This allows the Health Department to quickly determine the source of an outbreak and the facility can take actions to limit the spread of people getting sick. To become a sentinel site, please complete this form.

 
Activity in Vermont

An outbreak of norovirus-like illness is when two or more people with a common exposure (like being in a school or child care) are sick within 1-2 days of each other with the abrupt onset of vomiting and diarrhea. An outbreak is over when it’s been five days since the last person recovered and no additional people are sick.